They are, indeed, the greatest generation. The trailblazers, the roots and fabric of our nation during the 20th century, they formed the moral backbone of the country and led us by their sterling example.
They are the quiet ones - the soft-spoken men and women who let a hard day's work do their talking for them. They toiled in fields and factories all across our nation for no other reason than to provide a roof and a meal for their families.
They were the first born of the immigrants to the United States from the faraway lands of Europe, Asia and the Pacific Islands. They came to Hawaii, too, and found a welcoming culture to blend and mix and create families and traditions of their own.
Takao Matsuda, who passed away last month at the age of 90, was one of these first born on the West Side of Maui. He grew up in the village camp of Kauaula in the foothills mauka of Puamana and lived most of his life in a quaint homestead on Lahainaluna Road.
Matsuda worked for Pioneer Mill - as did his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Moritaro Matsuda - after graduating from Lahainaluna High School. He and his wife, Harue, had four children. He worked in the boiler room at the mill for 40 years, but his passion was the electronics of the era. He spent most of his evenings fixing television sets and radios for his friends and the families of the plantation village.
He lived most of his life with the sole intention of providing for his family. "Dad told us to work hard and be honest," said son Wayne Matsuda. "His main concern in life was to work to give us a good life. Other than that, his passion was to work on TVs in his little shop on the side of our house, and he loved to watch boxing."
In his twilight years and after retirement, Takao's passion shifted to his grandchildren. "I guess that, with working so much, Dad didn't really have much time to spend with us kids, but he really made up for that with our kids, Amanda and Calen. He took them all around, went to all their sporting events and took care of them," Wayne said.
For first grandchild Amanda, the influence of her "Papito," as she called him, was profound.
"From the time I was born, my Papito did everything for Calen and I. In playing sports, he did everything to accommodate us. I think one of the fondest memories I have of him is when he built the basketball court outside of our house with his bare hands. I will always remember him out there in the blazing sun completing every detail of it until it was finished," she recalled.
"Now that he is gone, everything I do in my life is because of his inspiration. At the end of June, I will be competing at the HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) National Conference in Nashville in the Prepared Speaking event because of a speech I wrote about him. Papito's desire to help his family and the community in every way possible has motivated me to keep his memory alive in any way possible."
Yes, Amanda, Papito's spirit will be paid forward. Our community, and the world at large, will surely be a better place as a result of the standard of family values set by gentlemen such as Takao Matsuda. We are grateful and honored with our relationship with such a man.
Peace and God bless, and our sincere condolences to his wife, Harue Matsuda; son, Wayne (Aurora) Matsuda; and grandchildren, Zachary Sakamoto, Amanda Matsuda and Calen Matsuda. Takao was predeceased by his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Yoshitaro Matsuda; brother, Thomas Matsuda; sister, Jane Fujiwara; son, Miles Matsuda; and daughter, Cynthia Matsuda.